BackgroundIt remains unclear whether the impact of habitual physical activity (HPA) differs for central vs. peripheral arterial stiffness, both of which are detrimental to cardiovascular health. We investigated the associations of lifetime HPA of different intensities on brachial and femoral stiffness in young adults, and compared these with those previously obtained for the carotid artery in the same study population.MethodsProspectively measured data (eight repeated measures between ages 13 and 36 years) on HPAs, and other lifestyle and biological variables, were retrieved for 373 subjects in whom stiffness of the brachial and femoral, as well as the carotid, arteries was assessed at age 36 years. Generalized estimating equations were used to examine the differences in time spent in HPAs (min/week) across sex-specific tertiles of the brachial and femoral distensibility (DC) and compliance (CC) coefficients.ResultsAfter adjustment for potential confounders, subjects in the highest (more compliant) vs. those in the lowest tertiles of the brachial and femoral CCs (less compliant) at age 36 years had spent on average more time in vigorous (21.2 (95%CI:2.0; 40.4) and 24.4 (5.0; 43.8), respectively) but not in light-to-moderate HPAs throughout the longitudinal period. These differences were explained by 28 and 62%, respectively, by vigorous-HPA-related favorable impacts on other cardiovascular risk factors. No such associations were observed for the brachial and femoral DCs, however.ConclusionsLifetime vigorous, but not light-to-moderate, HPA is favorably associated with brachial and femoral compliance, but not DC. Altogether, these and our previous findings thus suggest generalized vigorous-HPA-related adaptations, although of different nature, throughout the arterial tree. © 2011 American Journal of Hypertension, Ltd.